Thursday, July 12, 2018

Art report / Hamburg 1

Rosemarke Trockel is a German artist who works in practically every medium and technique that she can think of, but I have always kept an eye out for her knitted works.  Seen in the Hamburger Kunsthalle, this large work from 1986:

Rosemarie Trockel, Ohne Title (Untitled)

In the traditional modernist trope of referring to art in your art, Trockel has cleverly executed the "Woolmark" logo in her wool knitting.  She stretched the knitted fabric over a canvas for rigid display.

Whenever I see mainstream artists use fiber techniques I wonder how much if any of it they did themselves.  A bit of googling gave me this explanation from a London gallery that exhibited some of her knitted works:  "In choosing wool and knitting, a material and technique traditionally associated with the female domestic realm and craft, Trockel explores the negative connotations of these 'inferior materials and skills'.  Distinguishing her practice from traditional craft, Trockel made blueprints for her designs and had them produced by a technician using computerised machinery.  By mechanically producing the knitted patterns, she questions whether the cliche of women's art relates solely to the choice of materials or whether it is also influenced by the treatment of these materials."

Hmmm.  I wonder what was the answer to her questioning -- is the cliche just in the wool, or in how you process it, or in what you choose to depict in your knitting?  And I also wonder what she considers to be "the cliche of women's art."

Do you suppose we'll ever get past being a cliche?  I'm not sure Trockel is helping on that score.  What do you think?


  1. Hmmn, I must admit to being somewhat divided on whether artists should always personally make all their art. I certainly prefer it when they do - or, rather, when they make it reasonably well so that the execution does not get the way of the appreciation.

    Should we condemn artists if they are not specific craft competent? Must an artist always only make work in the medium they can control? It would be very limiting if the ideas and the vision ranged wide over many media, not least because of the time it takes to learn and achieve (even to a barely acceptable level) a new craft skill. Or can we regard the separate craftspeople as part of artists' larger available toolkit? I believe that is acceptable. (I sometimes print my images with my own inkjet printer, and sometimes send them to a commercial printer in order to achieve a greater size.)

    On what Trockel is saying about the knitted piece, it sounds somewhat artspeak gobblygooky to me. Knitting in our culture is traditionally seen as women's work; but on the other hand some might say that anything to do with machinery is men's work. Except of course women worked in the mills, ....

    I do so despair of art-speak shorthand which effectively leads to meaninglessness. I reckon that women's art is as valid a descriptive as men's art. I am interested to read what others think.

  2. I've really been enjoying this series of posts about art on your travels. I wanted to first echo what Olga said about art-speak gobblygooky and meaninglessness.

    I guess my feeling is that the artistry of a piece should stand independent of the process used to make it. That is- I'm actually sort of offended by the idea that making something by machine using a blueprint makes it art where it would have been "traditional craft" if done by hand. At the risk of being a bit obstreperous, that seems like so much bulls**t.

    As an art quilter, I certainly recognize the difficulty that persists in having many types of fiber art appreciated as art rather than craft, but I cannot abide the idea that the construction method is the determining factor. I don't want my pieces appreciated as art because thread and fabric is inherently an artistic medium, any more than paint is an inherently artistic medium (do we call house painters artists?-no). I want my pieces appreciated as art because I'm using this medium to make art- that is, something I recognize as having a meaningful design, composition, and form coupled with the goal of communicating something or expressing something. Of course your definition of art may be different, but all the same I feel like it should be divorced from the medium.

    So I guess to answer your question- no, I don't think Troeckel, at least in her statement, is helping. On the other hand, I love the idea of using innovative approaches. In my book there isn't anything wrong with using machines or blueprints, or machine quilting (compared to hand quilting) or whatever technological advancement you feel inspired to adopt. The burden is still to make something good.